The noose, shall we say, is slowly tightening.
America, now angered and awakened, is slowly turning all of its military might in one direction, for one reason — the containment of China.
The US Marines are revamping their entire purpose to island hopping in the Pacific, while the US Navy plans to put ship killer missiles on every one of its destroyers.
More Navy carrier groups are also plying the South China Sea, openly taunting Xi Jinping’s so-called “Wolf Warrior” footing. And more will come.
F-35 fighter groups are expanding, and the US Air Force, once content to maintain long-range bombers at home, are repositioning them — yep, in the Pacific theater.
Oh, and the US Army? They are looking at advanced laser weapons, new missile systems and the latest technology in multi-domain warfare, as it too, takes aim straight at Beijing.
Then there are the allies — Australia, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea and even Germany and France.
All are rapidly expanding their military posture, and all are dedicated to the UN convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), something China is openly violating.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III told a recent NATO conference the United States needs its NATO allies to invest more in their military capabilities and help the Pentagon address the growing threat posed by China, National Defense reported.
“I made it clear that the United States is committed to defending the international rules-based order, which China has consistently undermined for its own interests,” he said, describing the rival nation as the Defense Department’s “primary pacing challenge.”
NATO is being expected to produce a new “Strategic Concept” as part of a series of reform efforts, which includes a greater focus on addressing China’s growing military capabilities.
All of this, combined, is clearly ringing alarm bells for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), and its leaders, for one basic reason.
Unlike the US military, which has operated around the globe and has been constantly engaged in battles — thereby retaining its sharpness — China has not fought a “real war” for decades.
But that is about to change.
According to a Global Times report over the weekend, which quotes Xinhua sources, the Chinese military announced it will build a new type of training system that would improve military training in all respects, strengthen the capability “to win wars” and build the Chinese military into a world-class one.
The new military training system will focus on ensuring PLA exercises are the same as real wars to deal with rapidly changing global situations and external threats, Chinese military analysts said.
Approved by Chinese President Xi Jinping, also chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), the CMC has released a decision on fostering a new type of military training system, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
The decision stressed efforts to speed up the establishment of the training system, to improve military training in all respects and to build the PLA into a world-class armed force, Xinhua said.
It also underscored promoting combat-oriented training, exploring new training paradigms and improving the management of training operations, Xinhua reported.
A more detailed report, published by the PLA Daily, explained that the decision asked the Chinese military to train as if exercises are real wars, boost joint exercises, enhance training with technology, strengthen talent support and follow patterns and laws of training and … again, winning wars.
Intensive training of not only soldiers but also commanders and the creation of realistic battlefield environments are among the priorities, according to the PLA Daily report.
Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times that compared with previous training systems applied by the PLA, the new system puts more stresses on coupling training with real combat, to the extent that the two need to be highly identical.
The new system also requires new methods, including the deployment of training equipment and the means to support it, to make drills more realistic, Song said.
According to the Rand Corporation, China’s military has an increasingly impressive high-tech arsenal, but its ability to use these weapons and equipment remains unclear. There are reasons to be skeptical.
The PLA still struggles under the legacy of an obsolete command system, rampant corruption, and training of debatable realism, among other issues.
Although it engaged in a minor naval skirmish with Vietnam over the Johnson South Reef in 1988, the PLA last fought a major conflict nearly 40 years ago, when a seasoned Vietnamese military demolished a bungled Chinese invasion in 1979.
The ghost of that defeat still hovers over the PLA. In China, authorities have largely chosen to ignore an embarrassing conflict that fits awkwardly with Beijing’s narrative, but the silence has left many PLA veterans disillusioned, the Rand Corporation reported.
The few combat veterans who remain in service will all retire within the next few years, which means the military will soon have no personnel with firsthand combat experience.
Without the test of combat, the PLA’s war-fighting prowess remains unproven.
Scholars have noted that a major source of the German military’s adaptability and lethality in World War II owed in part to its deliberate, thorough analysis of its after-action reviews and willingness to implement changes accordingly.
While China aims to complete modernization of its armed forces by 2035, and fully transform the PLA into a world-class military by the mid-21st century, in the near term, it is facing rapidly changing global situations.
On Feb. 10, just three weeks after President Joe Biden was sworn in, it set up a new China Task Force led by Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense Ely Ratner, National Defense reported.
It includes representatives from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the military services, combatant commands and the intelligence community.
“This initiative will provide a baseline assessment of DoD policies, programs and processes on China-related matters and provide the Secretary of Defense recommendations on key priorities and decision points to meet the China challenge,” according to a Pentagon fact sheet.
The task force is expected to address: strategy; operational concepts; technology and force structure; force posture and force management; intelligence; US alliances and partnerships; and defense relations with China.
Its findings and recommendations are due by mid-June.
The noose, as they say, is tightening.